“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Culpeper in Culpeper County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

William “Extra Billy” Smith


William "Extra Billy" Smith Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, October 29, 2011
1. William "Extra Billy" Smith Marker
Inscription. William Smith was born in King George County, Virginia. Arriving in Culpeper in 1818 as a young lawyer, the married Elizabeth Bell, the eldest daughter of a Culpeper merchant, and they had 11 children (4 died in infancy). In 1825, Smith built his home on this very block—a stately white classical revival mansion with 20 foot columns on the front. Later demolished around 1930, the Culpeper Post Office was built on this site in 1932. The former Post Office building is used today as offices by Culpeper County.

In 1827, Mr. Smith obtained the contract to carry mail and passengers from Washington D.C. to and from Warrenton, and later Culpeper. Helped by his support of Andrew Jackson, his rout was eventually extended to cover the area from Alexandria/Washington to Milledgeville, Georgia (then Georgia’s capital), a 650-mile route. Smith extended it with numerous spur routes, all generating extra fees. Passengers were sometimes even charged extra for carrying packages on their laps. During an investigation of the Post Office department, Smith’s extra fees were publicized and he earned the nicknames “Surplus William” and “Extra Billy”—and the latter stuck.

“Extra Billy” began his political career in 1836 serving in the Virginia State Senate, followed by the House of Representatives. In 1846, he was elected Governor. During his term, he pushed hard for public schools, improved Capitol Square and the Governor’s Mansion, worked for a railroad from the coast to the Shenandoah Valley, and saw that Virginia provided 1300 officers and men to fight in the Mexican War.

In 1849, after serving as Governor and needing to replenish his personal finances, Smith followed two of his sons to California for the Gold Rush. There, he invested in real estate, participated in California politics, and returned to Virginia a wealthy man. From 1853 to 1861 he served in the House of Representatives until Virginia seceded from the Union.

Smith then volunteered for the Confederate Army and served as Colonel and later Brigadier General. Having no formal military training, he preferred common sense over the formal tactics of a military education. He also distinguished himself with his unorthodox field uniform. During the Battle of First Manassas, when his uniform was not yet ready, he famously led a mounted charge in a “business suit, tall beaver hat, and holding a blue cotton umbrella in the hot sun. During the Battle of Gettysburg, Smith refused to pursue retreating Union troops, concerned that a Union force was approaching from his left. As a result, the Confederates failed to attack and take Cemetery Hill on July 1, 1863.

Smith served as Governor again from 1864 to the end of the war, when he returned to “Monterosa”, his estate near Warrenton, Virginia, and engaged in agricultural pursuits. At the age of eighty, he became a member of the Virginia House of Delegates (1877-79). He died in Warrenton in 1887, and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. He is one of only two Governors of Virginia with an individual statue on Virginia Capitol grounds.
Erected by Town of Culpeper.
Location. 38° 28.488′ N, 77° 59.736′ W. Marker is in Culpeper, Virginia, in Culpeper County. Marker is at the intersection of North Main Street (Business U.S. 15) and West Spencer Street, on the left when traveling north on North Main Street. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Culpeper VA 22701, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. “Gallant” Pelham’s Last Days (within shouting distance of this marker); A.P. Hill's Boyhood Home (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Eppa Rixey Boyhood Home (about 600 feet away); A Tribute to Black Americans – Early 1900’s (approx. 0.2 miles away); Historic Antioch Baptist Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Culpeper Court House (approx. 0.2 miles away); a different marker also named Culpeper Court House (approx. 0.2 miles away); Mountain Run Watershed (approx. 0.3 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Culpeper.
More about this marker. (photo captions)
•Major General William Smith in his CSA uniform.
•Looking south on Main Street, William "Extra Billy" Smith's Culpeper home is on the right. Today the site is home to Culpeper County's administrative offices.
•Governor William Smith monument c.1906 by artist Frederick William Sievers from a William Ludwell Sheppard design, located on the Virginia Capitol grounds in Richmond.
•William Smith, age 50, during his term as Virginia governor.
•At the age of eighty, William Smith became a member of the Virginia House of Delegates (1877-79).
•William Smith's classical Revival mansion featured 20 foot columns on the front. It was located on Main Street between Spencer and Edmondson Streets.
Categories. PoliticsWar, US Civil
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. This page has been viewed 412 times since then and 79 times this year. Photo   1. submitted on , by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Wide shot of marker and its surroundings. • Can you help?
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